Monthly Archives: October 2013

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The curse of carrying “big notes”

You wave down the boda boda speeding past you. Then, you ask to use the services the cyclist offers to make his daily bread. He initially speeds past you as though in a hurry to go get stuck in traffic jam somewhere. He pauses and seems to rethink.

Being stuck in traffic is not very attractive after all. He does the moonwalk to guide his motorbike backwards to where you are standing. You use the boda boda rule to get the correct price to where you are going. But you are going to deduct at least Shs1,000 from whatever price he offers to take you for.

In an effort to be transparent (or naïvety that will not just go away), you state that you have a ‘big note’. The cyclist leaves faster than one being pursued by the police for not having a crash helmet on. A “big note”, for you that has come back for holidays from abroad or away from Uganda, is any denomination ranging from Shs10,000 to Shs50,000.

You plan to be at a market next weekend – there is no mobile application that brings food from the market to your home yet you have got to go and do the rewarding work yourself.

With your expert eye for fruits, you choose the ones you would like to ‘accompany’ you home. There they are, speaking to you. You agree to free them; first course of action is paying for them-freeing them any other way is generally frowned upon everywhere. You hand Nalongo the money for the fruits. She looks at your outstretched hand like you are handing her used tissue. “Are you out of your mind? What do you expect me to do with that money?” her body language will shout.

“Ummmm, take it, find change and hand me my newfound fruit friends” your mind will mumble. You are not be able to find your voice to let her in on your thoughts. You instead find things to do with your hands as she sizes you up. Your heady conversation ends with you walking off, leaving your fruit friends to ripen under her care.

You were in a taxi yesterday. Someone handed the taxi conductor money. The conductor initially slammed the taxi door shut with such vengeance, the rusty frame shook violently. Unsatisfied, he then called several gods to do all forms of injustice to the big-note-handing passenger.

Where is the wisdom in turning down money?

Does going hungry and pale compare to the inconvenience of finding change?

That extra baggage in job contract

The unemployment rate in this country is what donor funds are to an unmonitored politician -bad. The joblessness has driven most graduates this columnist has spoken to, when asked what they’d like to do, to say ‘anything’.

There are several manuals out there on how to ace your next interview. There are equally as many on how to moonwalk into an interview room to be perceived as a prize job candidate. Getting a job is one of the hurdles; the other is keeping sane while you have it. Here on this very day, we will delve into some extra baggage that comes with some jobs; things you usually aren’t told. We need to prepare you.

If you become a columnist, you will occasionally have to deal with the back pain that comes from hunching over a computer all day, attempting to topple Shakespeare’s work. You will want to type out words that will win awards but that back pain, the classic Kryptonite. This will step in and reduce your several pages of hard work will turn into a Facebook status update.

If you become a taxi conductor, the occasional fight with an unhappy alighting passenger is part of your employment contract. It is in the fine print, the bits typed so small, only bespectacled owls can read them. He’ll say you’ve charged him Shs 500 more than what you ought to. Either that or he already paid you.

If you become a Member of Parliament, or a politician on the opposition, being lifted by your buckles, in front of glaring cameras, is part of your job description. Also, you will inhale teargas every other week. You could prepare for this by going to Kenya for high altitude training to expand your lungs.

If you get to work in a hospital, regardless of what you do there, you should get ready for everyone asking for medical advice. We collectively believe that there is this invisible hand constantly planting medical knowledge into everyone who works in the hospital.

One day we will ask about what to do about an aching back. The next we will inquire about our cough that has persisted for too long. Then we will ask whether there is anything you can give us for lice.

You will tell us you are the janitor. We will pause and then ask about the best way to get rid of persistent headaches is.

A nation in waiting

This columnist has lived in this dusty Pearl for many, many years. So many, he has seen the Union Jack lowered and the Uganda Flag raised for the first time amidst overwhelming joy. The feeling that, “This is it. This is what our parents and grandparents died for. This is what Benedicto Kiwanuka and all the rest lived, breathed, bled for”. The feeling that it all made sense finally. Thank you, YouTube.

Fast-forward a few years and well, things are nothing like they ought to be. The talent is there. The skill abounds. The natural resources, those are plenty. What is missing? This columnist will not attempt to place a finger on it but he will make a few observations on what he has seen this week.

He has seen a pregnant woman, about a week to delivery, travel to the Ministry of Internal Affairs to pick up her passport. She has been doing this for over a month. He has seen her treated like dirt at the gate, squeeze into a tent to stand and wait for hours for someone to come out and read out, to a tent full of over 100 people, the five passports that are ready. Is it possible to pin-up the names of all the passports that are ready so people do not lose so much time? Would the country, the one our fore-fathers died to get independence for, benefit from these 100 people out there being productive? Is it too hard to set-up SMS notifications that tell you when your documents are ready so you can go pick them up and use the rest of your time, time you would spend waiting?

He has seen people make appointments and fail to show up all the while not communicating what is going on. He has seen an entire day’s programme re-arranged for several people because one person failed to keep time. He has seen people deliberately start to go late because they do not expect any better of the person they are going to meet. He has seen a country slide into waiting. He feels if the pearl of Africa were a computer, it would be stuck at ‘Loading…’. We wait. I wait. Hours lost. Days gone. Waiting. The columnist is part of the waiting game. This is him vowing to make every effort to do his part; to show up. To reduce the waiting, even by just one person.

Skype session with Sejusa

A few months ago, General Sejusa, the national army’s representative in Parliament, said that there were plans to impose President Museveni’s son, Brig. Muhoozi Kainerugaba as the next head of state. Tempers flared, big words were thrown around, tables were turned searching for him until he made his location known; London. Not Alaska, just London. Besides the sticky issue of treason charges, he also stands to lose his seat in Parliament. The parliamentary rules committee, the one hearing his stay/leave parliament case, needs to hear from the horse’s mouth to guide their decision. The horse in this case, dear reader, is General Sejusa himself. The one holed up in London. The committee is considering whether to use Skype or to travel to London. Skype is this thing that you put on your phone or computer and it allows you to talk to and see someone else far away using the internet.

This columnist is all for digitisation. Down with long queues and rude people at the end of those queues; Hooray to services that allow us to skip the queues and do the same things using our phones. The columnist’s bias for the Skype option should be clear by now. If it isn’t, here is one more line to clear the murky waters. The columnist is a big proponent for the Skype option.

However, here are a few things to consider if we are to go down the joyous digital road. Is it legally binding? Does the General have to be calm and collected, in a conference room, with Mozart playing in the background to start the Skype session? Time differences considered is it permissible for him to take the call while say in a club (For you who cannot picture the General in a club, think of it as a very exclusive one with a choir singing the music). For the team in Uganda, will Skype allow them to wear ill-fitting suits? Are there instances where Skype says “Image not accepted. Please dress better”? Will Skype recognise the accents? Or will we need Google Translate? What happens if a goat darts across the room during the Skype session (even this columnist can’t picture under what circumstances this would happen)? Do they stop? Do they soldier on? (Pun? What pun?) Or do they feed it?